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Albany County Legislators Release Report, Recommendations For How To Counter Blight

A "red X" house on Ontario Street
Dave Lucas
A "red X" house on Ontario Street in the city of Albany, NY

An Albany County Legislature task force has released a new report examining how to return blighted property to functional, productive use.

The Albany County Blight to Betterment Task Force consisting of legislators, staff and community stakeholders convened in June 2020 with the hope that new home buyers would be able to purchase blighted properties and get them back into productive use. But the committee identified several barriers facing prospective owners who often are unaware of assistance available to them.

Legislator Carolyn McLaughlin, a Democrat from the 1st district, is co-chair of the Task Force, which is out with a 13-page report.

"We actually worked several months ago, and put together some recommendations for the Land Bank as to how they can do their job better in letting people know, just exactly what the Land Bank has to offer. And taking down some of the barriers that people still believe exist as it relates to working with their organization, and others, banks, the lending institutions, how do we do a better job of getting lending institutions to look at some of these neighborhoods that sometimes they say 'no, that's not a good investment.' But you can't it can't become a good investment if you don't invest in it. And one of the major pieces is forming partnerships with the banks so that they too, once you find a homeowner, potential homeowner, making sure they have access to capital to purchase a home so That's one of the major pieces that's being worked on as we speak. This is all not pie in the sky down the future. This is stuff that has to take place right now."

Task Force Co-chair Matt Peter, a Democrat from the fifth district, says blight often stems from a long tradition of redlining and community disinvestment. He says every year a blighted property is not in the hands of someone who will take care of it, the more likely it will be torn down, never to be replaced.

"Many of these properties end up in sort of backward economic state, where they're just left to slowly disrepair. And the end cost comes to the taxpayers either way, whether it's through emergency demolition, police calls to the property, buyer calls to the property and any type of other maintenance that's required, you know, those properties just being there, has an economic and social cost. And so our next steps are to examine what can we do on the front end of promises, what type of investments and to do that will both be responsible for the taxpayer but create a better outcome?"

Peter says blight is an incredibly complex issue and the task force report, which will continually be updated, is only the first step in rectifying the situation. McLaughlin says working groups are already in place...

"...that are going to be looking at legislation that could assist people and assist our neighborhoods in growing, and assist the cities and the county helping our residents become homeowners and just recovering blighted buildings, it's getting the buildings ready for people to look at them as potential place where they might want to live, forming partnerships with the labor union. These are the kinds of things that are going on as we speak, so that this desk doesn't become a report or recommendations that gather dust on the shelf, but actually has feet and is moving."

Peter adds that blight is both a county and a regional problem and says it must be addressed "with the eyes of equity." The report contains a series of lengthy recommendations, which the panel is in the process of prioritizing. To read the full report, visit: https://www.albanycounty.com/legislature/blighttobettermentreport

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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